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Doctrines, Part 2

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What Is the Trinity?

What Is the Trinity?
Sometimes people use three different names when referring to God: God or Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. But these are more than simply different names for one person; they are, in fact, the names of three very distinct persons. But even though God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit have eternally existed as three distinct persons, there is only one God. This is called the doctrine of the Trinity. The idea of three persons and only one God is difficult to understand completely. Even so, it is one of the most important ideas of the Christian faith.

The Bible’s View of the Trinity

The word “trinity” is never found in the Bible, but the idea represented by the word is affirmed in many places.
Look at : At this moment, all three members of the Trinity were performing three distinct activities: God the Father was speaking, God the Son was being baptized, and God the Holy Spirit was resting on the Son.
Matthew 3:16–17 ESV
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Similarly, when Jesus sent his disciples out to do their work, he commanded them to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (). In saying this, Jesus is affirming that all three members of the Trinity are distinct in their personhood (the Father can’t be the Son, for example). also affirms the three distinct persons in the Trinity: “Pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Matthew 28:19 ESV
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Jude 20–21 ESV
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

The Meaning of the Trinity

Because God is three distinct persons, the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. This was demonstrated through a number of passages above.
Each of the persons of the Trinity is fully God. God the Father’s deity is shown from the first verse of the Bible—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)—and throughout the pages of Scripture. When the Bible refers simply to God, more often than not it is referring to God the Father.
But God the Son, who came to earth as Jesus Christ, is also fully God. As Paul writes of Jesus in , “In him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” Therefore, Jesus’ disciple Thomas was correct when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (). In fact, John said he wrote his gospel so that people would “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” ().
Colossians 2:9 ESV
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
John 20:28 ESV
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 20:31 ESV
but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Finally, God the Holy Spirit is also fully God. Peter confirms this view when he accuses someone of lying “to the Holy Spirit” () and then further explains that this man has “not lied to men but to God” (). The Spirit, Paul says, is omniscient like God the Father when he writes, “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” ().
Finally, God the Holy Spirit is also fully God. Peter confirms this view when he accuses someone of lying “to the Holy Spirit” () and then further explains that this man has “not lied to men but to God” (). The Spirit, Paul says, is omniscient like God the Father when he writes, “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” ().
Acts 5:3 ESV
But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?
Acts 5:4 ESV
While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
1 Corinthians 2:11 ESV
For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
But the Bible is also clear that there is only one God and not three. The Bible says that God is only one essence or one being. Look at ; ; ; ; and
Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Isaiah 45:5 ESV
I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,
Romans 3:30 ESV
since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
Paul affirms this in Romans 3:30 when he writes, “God is one” and again in 1 Timothy 2:5 when he writes, “There is one God.” In James 2:19 we find that even the demons acknowledge this: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
1 Timothy 2:5 ESV
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
James 2:19 ESV
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
The Trinity is one of those mysteries we can only describe in part. Nothing in creation is exactly like God’s being. Attempts to simplify or fully explain this mystery all fail and often lead to beliefs that are contrary to the Bible’s teachings. In short, the doctrine of the Trinity is something we will never fully understand, for parts of it are beyond our comprehension.

The Distinct Roles of the Trinity

All three members of the Trinity have different roles. For example, in creation we know that God spoke the earth into being (). But tells us that God the Son carried out those words. And, as tells us, the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters, sustaining and manifesting God’s presence in creation.
Different roles within the Trinity can also be seen in our salvation. God the Father sent His Son in order that the world might be saved through him through His death, burial, and resurrection (). It was the Father’s will that Jesus die for our sins so that we didn’t have to (). When Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, he and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to bring completion to the work the Father and the Son had started ( and ).
John 3:16–17 ESV
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Hebrews 10:10 ESV
And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
John 14:26 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 16:7 ESV
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
These different functions and roles are simply the outworking of the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. They do not diminish the deity, attributes, or essential nature of the Father, Son, or Spirit. The distinction is simply in the ways they relate to each other and to the creation. This is far different from our own experience where every person is a different being as well. But somehow God’s being is so different from ours that it can be both undivided and can unfold itself into interpersonal relationships among three distinct persons. This is far different from anything we have ever experienced, will experience, or can fully understand.
Yet the unity and diversity within the Trinity provide a wonderful basis for the unity and diversity we experience in everyday life. In marriage, for example, two distinct persons come together, and through marriage they become “one flesh” (Eph. 5:31). As husband and wife they have equal standing, value, and personhood before God, but they also have distinct roles. Just as the Father has authority over the Son, so in marriage the husband has authority over the wife. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Even though it may be difficult at times to figure out just how the roles of husband and wife are to be specifically defined, the Bible makes it clear that the relationship within the Trinity provides the model for the relationship of marriage.
Another example of unity and diversity is seen in the church, which has “many members” all with different skills but “one body” with one purpose (1 Cor. 12:12). It is also seen in the ethnic makeup of the church—which includes members “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev. 7:9). This diversity adds a complexity that shows us the wisdom of God in allowing both unity and diversity to exist within his world. The unity and diversity that exists in this world is simply a reflection of the unity and diversity that exists within the Trinity.

Questions for Review and Application

1. Can you name three or four key passages of Scripture that tell us about the Trinity? What exactly do these passages tell us about the Trinity?
2. Why do all analogies fail in their ability to fully explain the Trinity? Does this mean we should try to come up with an analogy that works? Why or why not?
3. How do the different ways the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other provide us with a model for the ways we are to relate to each other?

What Is God Like?

What Is God Like?
Just as Scripture is the highest source of information about itself, God is the highest source of information about himself. That makes sense, for if there was a higher source of information about God, then God wouldn’t be God.
Scripture simply assumes God exists. The first verse of the Bible—“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)—matter-of-factly presents God as Creator without any proof for his existence or actions.
Scripture also tells us that all persons everywhere have a deep, inner sense that God exists, that they are his creatures and that he is their Creator. In Romans 1:19, Paul writes that even for the wicked, this sense is “plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” Although many today do not acknowledge that God exists, Paul says this is because “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom. 1:25), therefore actively or willingly rejecting some truth about God’s character and existence that they originally knew. In essence, they convince themselves that “there is no God” (Ps. 10:4).
The knowledge of God that Paul refers to can be “clearly perceived … in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). Every created thing gives evidence of God and his character. But human beings—created in the image of God—give the most evidence of God’s existence and character.
Therefore, belief in God is not some “blind faith”; it is based on evidence found both in the Bible and in the natural world.

God Is Knowable

We will never fully know God. He is infinite and we are finite. “His greatness is unsearchable,” too great to ever be fully known (). “His understanding is beyond measure” (). God’s knowledge is “too wonderful” for us; it is so high, we “cannot attain it” (), and if we could count God’s thoughts, we would find them greater in number than the sands of the earth ().
Psalm 145:3 ESV
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.
Psalm 147:5 ESV
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
We will never fully know God. He is infinite and we are finite. “His greatness is unsearchable,” too great to ever be fully known (). “His understanding is beyond measure” (). God’s knowledge is “too wonderful” for us; it is so high, we “cannot attain it” (), and if we could count God’s thoughts, we would find them greater in number than the sands of the earth ().
Psalm 139:6 ESV
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:17–18 ESV
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
While we will never fully know God, we can personally know God. Jesus said eternal life was found in knowing him and knowing “the only true God” who sent him (). This is far better than simply knowing about God. In fact, in , God says, “Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.”
John 17:3 ESV
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Jeremiah 9:24 ESV
but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

God Is Independent of Creation

God’s independence means he doesn’t actually need us or anything else in creation for anything. He did not create us because he was lonely or needed fellowship with other people. Look at .
Acts 17:24–25 ESV
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
God always was. He was not created; he never came into being. The psalmist writes, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” ().
Psalm 90:2 ESV
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

God Is Unchangeable

However, though God is completely independent, he also chooses to give us value and significance. He allows us to be important to him! Indeed, all creation glorifies and brings him joy. As he says in Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone who is called by my name … I created for my glory.” And Zephaniah says God “will rejoice” over us “with gladness” and “exult” over us “with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). Although God does not need us, he allows us to bring joy to his heart—joy that results in loud singing! That is a sign of true significance.
God Is Unchangeable
God is unchangeable in his being, attributes, purposes, and promises. The psalmist praises God for being the same (; ). When God stays the same in his being and attributes it is in direct contrast to us: Our beings will change and our attributes will change. God, on the other hand, will stay the same forever.

God Is Eternal

God is also unchanging in his promises. As is written in Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
Even so, there are places in Scripture that seem at first to contradict God’s unchangeableness—especially related to his purposes and promises. For example, God did not punish Nineveh as promised, when the people repented (Jonah 3:4, 10; for other examples, see Ex. 32:9–14 and Isa. 38:1–6). But these instances should be understood as true expressions of God’s present attitude or intention related to the specific situation. As the situation changes, God’s attitude or expression of an intention will change as well.
God’s unchangeableness does not mean he will not act nor feel differently in response to different situations (for he would hardly be good or just if he did not respond differently to sin than to repentance and righteousness). Nor does unchangeableness mean God doesn’t act or feel emotions. In fact, one of the ways God demonstrates he is “God and not a man” is by not executing his “burning anger” and destroying a people; instead, as his “heart recoils within” him and his “compassion grows warm and tender,” God withholds his judgment and says “I will not come in wrath” (Hos. 11:8–9).
God Is Eternal
God, being eternal, has no beginning or end or succession of events in his own being. He has always existed. He is the first and last, the beginning and the end (). Jude tells us that “glory, majesty, dominion, and authority” were God’s “before all time” as well as “now and forever” ().
Revelation 1:8 ESV
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Jude 25 ESV
to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

God Is Omnipresent

Because God is eternal, his view of time is radically different from ours. For example, “a thousand years” are in his sight “but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4). Therefore, all of past history is, to God, as if it just happened. Peter affirms this when he writes “with the Lord … a thousand years” is “as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). But Peter also tells us one day seems to last forever to God: “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3:8).
Taken together, these perspectives let us know that God views the whole span of history as vividly as he would if it were a brief event that had just happened. But he also views a brief event as if it were going on forever. God sees and knows all events—past, present, and future—with equal vividness. Although he has no succession of movements, he still sees the progression of events at different points in time. And as the one who created and rules over time, God uses time for his own purposes.
God Is Omnipresent
Just as God is unlimited with regard to time,he is also present in every point of space with his whole being. He cannot be limited by material space because he created it (; ).
Genesis 1:1 ESV
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
God is also present in every part of space; he is everywhere; he fills heaven and earth (Jer. 23:23–24). As David writes, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Ps. 139:7–10). God is present in every part of space, but his being is such that even “heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain” him (1 Kings 8:27).
Psalm 139:7–10 ESV
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
God is present to keep the universe existing and functioning the way he intended it to. In Christ, “all things hold together” (). Christ is continually upholding “the universe by the word of his power” ().
Colossians 1:17 ESV
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Hebrews 1:3 ESV
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

God Is Spirit

And sometimes God is present neither to punish nor bless, but instead to keep the universe existing and functioning the way he intended it to. In Christ, “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Christ is continually upholding “the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3).
God Is Spirit
Jesus affirmed that God is in no way limited to a spatial location when he said, “God is spirit” (). God exists in such a way that his being is not made of any matter. He has no parts, no size, and no dimensions.
John 4:24 ESV
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Paul tells us those who are “joined to the Lord” become “one spirit with him” (). As one spirit with God, his Holy Spirit within us bears witness to our status as his adopted children (). When we die, if we are joined with him, our spirit will return “to God who gave it” ().
1 Corinthians 6:17 ESV
But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
Romans 8:16 ESV
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
Ecclesiastes 12:7 ESV
and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

God Is Invisible

Because God is spirit, God is also invisible. “No one has ever seen God” (). Nor will anyone ever be able to see God’s total essence or all of his spiritual being.
John 1:18 ESV
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Although no one can ever see God’s total essence, which is invisible, God has at times chosen to show something of himself to people through visible, created things, and especially through the person of Jesus Christ.
Although no one can ever see God’s total essence, which is invisible, God has at times chosen to show something of himself to people through visible, created things, and especially through the person of Jesus Christ.

God Is Omniscient

God “knows everything” (). In one simple and eternal act, he fully knows himself and all actual and possible things. He knows all things that exist and all that happens.
1 John 3:20 ESV
for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
God is always, at all times, fully aware of everything. His knowledge never changes or grows. Nothing surprises him; nothing is hidden from him. From all eternity God has known all things that would happen and all things that he would do.

God Is Holy

God is not only all-knowing but also all-wise. This means he always chooses the best possible goals and the best possible means to meet those goals. He is “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27). He is “wise in heart” (Job 9:4) and with him “are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding” (Job 12:13).
His wisdom is manifest in many areas. For example, in his wisdom, he created all things (Ps. 104:24). His wisdom is also shown through the lives of “those who love God” and “those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). For those people, because of God’s wisdom, “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28).
God gives this wisdom to his children. With this in mind, James encourages his readers, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Godly wisdom—the character quality found in living a life pleasing to him—is discovered through reading and obeying God’s Word. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).
Even so, we will never fully share God’s wisdom. Because of the great “depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,” his judgments are “unsearchable,” and his ways are “inscrutable” (Rom. 11:33). At times he will allow us to understand the reasons things happen; at other times, we will not be able to fully understand why things are the way they are or happened the way they did. During those difficult times, we must eventually “trust in the Lord” with “all” our heart and not lean on our “own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).
God Is Truthful
“The Lord is the true God” (Jer. 10:10). All his knowledge and all his words are both true and the final standard of truth. Once he says something, we can count on his doing it; we can count on him to be forever faithful to his promises (Num. 23:19). In fact, the essence of true faith is taking God at his word and relying on him to do as he promised.
We can imitate God’s truthfulness, in part, by striving to have true knowledge of him and his Word. We can also imitate it by being truthful in what we say and do (Col. 3:9–10).
Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). Therefore, God is the final standard of good; all he is and does is good and worthy of approval. There is no higher standard of goodness than God’s own character and his approval of whatever is consistent with that character. For example, his goodness and approval of goodness is seen through his creation: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).
Because God is the ultimate standard of goodness, he is also the ultimate source of all goodness. James tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). God is the one who bestows good gifts on his children. God promises not to withhold any good thing from “those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). Jesus confirms this when he says that God will “give good things to those who ask him” (Matt. 7:11). Even his discipline is a manifestation of his goodness and love (Heb. 12:10). Therefore, all the goodness that we seek is ultimately found in God himself. The psalmist realized this when he wrote, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Ps. 73:25).
God’s goodness can often be seen through his mercy and grace. His mercy is his goodness toward those in misery and distress. His grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment. Recipients of God’s goodness—often received through his mercy and grace—are called to demonstrate that goodness to others. As Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
God Is Love
As mentioned earlier, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God eternally gives of himself for the good of others. Jesus tells us this self-giving attribute, God’s love, was active “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). It was evident in the love that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all had for each other (John 17:24; 14:31).
This eternal love finds its expression in God’s self-giving love toward his children. John tells us, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Because God has loved and will love us for all eternity, we are able to freely give that love to others. In fact, Jesus summed up our responsibility to God when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … and … you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37–39). And like God’s love, our love is to be self-giving (1 John 3:16–17), not demonstrated in “word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
God Is Holy
“The Lord our God is holy” (). That means he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor. God is often called the “Holy One of Israel” (, for example). God’s holiness provides the pattern his children are to imitate. As he says in , “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”
Psalm 99:9 ESV
Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!
Psalm 71:22 ESV
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.
Leviticus 19:2 ESV
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to “strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The author of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines his children so that they “may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). As we are being made holy, individually and as members of the church (Eph. 5:26–27), we anticipate the day when all things in heaven and on earth will be separated from evil, purified from sin, and devoted solely to seeking God’s honor with true moral purity (Zech. 14:20–21).
God’s holiness provides the pattern his children are to imitate. As he says in Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to “strive … for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). The author of Hebrews tells us that God disciplines his children so that they “may share his holiness” (Heb. 12:10). As we are being made holy, individually and as members of the church (Eph. 5:26–27), we anticipate the day when all things in heaven and on earth will be separated from evil, purified from sin, and devoted solely to seeking God’s honor with true moral purity (Zech. 14:20–21).

God Is Omnipotent

Of God, Moses said, “All his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4). As Moses said, God always acts in accordance with what is right, for he himself is the final standard of what is right. As judge of the world, he will do what is right (Gen. 18:25). He speaks the truth and declares “what is right” (Isa. 45:19). So, as we seek to do what is just and what is right—as we seek to bring about what ought to be—we must seek to do that which is in line with God’s moral character, for that is the ultimate standard of righteousness.
Because God is righteous and just, he must treat people as they deserve. Therefore, he must punish that which is against him, that is, sin. However, sometimes God forgives people and does not punish them for their sin. How can he do that if he is just? God is able to forgive people because Christ died to take God’s punishment for sin upon himself. In this way, Jesus demonstrated “God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:25–26).
Because God is all powerful, eventually all things will be made right. He will bring about justice. As ones who have benefited from his righteousness and justice, we are to join the judge of the entire world in doing that which is right. We should always seek to do what is right and to bring about justice on behalf of those who are not experiencing it. As Proverbs 21:3 tells us, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
While explaining the first of the Ten Commandments, God says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5). In his jealousy, God continually seeks to protect his own honor. He desires that worship be given only to himself and not to anyone or anything else. It is not wrong for God to continually seek his own honor, for it is an honor that only he, as God, deserves. That is why he can rightly say, “My glory I will not give to another” (Isa. 48:11).
God Is Wrathful toward Sin
God intensely hates all sin. God’s wrath burns hot against sin, and it is this wrath that will eventually consume those who reject Jesus and continue in their sin. As Jesus said, “Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). It is the “wrath of God,” Paul says, that “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18).
Therefore, wrath is an attribute for which we should thank and praise God. If God delighted in or was not troubled by sin, he wouldn’t be a God worthy of our worship or praise. Sin is worthy of our hatred. In fact, we are encouraged by Christ’s example to hate sin and wickedness (Heb. 1:9). Although we should not glory or rejoice at the demise of others but should love them and pray that they would repent of their evil deeds, it is also right to rejoice at the just punishment of evil actions. Ultimately, we should pray that evildoers would repent and trust Christ for forgiveness. In the case of those who trust Christ, God’s wrath is satisfied because the just punishment fell on Christ at the cross (Rom. 3:25; 5:8–9). Thus, the wrath of God is not something those who believe in Jesus have any need to fear. The wrath that we deserved was fully given to Jesus, who through his death and resurrection “delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). But, for those who reject Jesus, God’s wrath is something to fear, for it fully remains on them (John 3:36).
God Wills What He Will
God continually “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). God’s will is the ultimate reason for everything that happens. It is the way God approves and determines to bring about every action necessary for the existence of and activity of himself and all his creation. God’s will is how he chooses to do what he does and doesn’t do.
For example, all things were created by God’s will (Rev. 4:11), human governments have their power according to God’s will (Rom. 13:1), and sometimes it is God’s will that his children suffer (1 Peter 3:17). All the events of our life are subject to God’s will. That is why James encourages us not to say we will do this or that, but instead say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
Even the death of Christ and all the events surrounding it took place according to God’s will. Luke tells us in Acts 4:27–28, those who were involved in Christ’s death did whatever God’s hand and plan “had predestined to take place.”
Sometimes God’s will is clearly revealed, such as when, from Scripture, we clearly know what we should do or what God has specifically commanded us to do. This is what is referred to when Jesus told us to pray “your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
At other times, Scripture does not give us clear direction as to what we are to do or how we are to act. It’s at times like these that our attitude should be one of humble reliance upon God and his sovereign control over the events in our life. We should plan our steps, as James encouraged us to, by saying “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:15).
Therefore, we must exhibit much caution, especially in the midst of difficult situations, in saying with any degree of certainty what the Lord’s will is if it isn’t clear from Scripture. For example, there is a danger in speaking of evil events as happening according to the will of God even though we may find places where the Bible speaks this way. When we explain evil as the result of God’s will, it can sound as if God is to be blamed for evil and sin or imply that God delights in such evil. But this is not the case. In the Bible, human beings and sinful angels (demons) are always blamed for evil, sinful actions, and God is never blamed. Even the death of Christ, which the Bible clearly states happened “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” was carried out “by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).
God is not to be blamed for, or thought responsible for, sinful or evil things. The exact relationship between his will and evil is not something he has chosen to completely reveal to us. Therefore, we must take comfort in the fact that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29).
God Has Freedom
Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Nothing can hinder God from doing his will. He is not constrained by anything outside of himself; he is completely free to do whatever he wants to do. He is not under any authority or restraint; there is no person or force that can ever dictate what he should or will do.
Although we can imitate God in his freedom when we exercise our will and make choices, all those choices are ultimately subject to God’s will. As Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Even “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1).
God Is Omnipotent
God is omnipotent. He is all powerful. He is able to do all his holy will. There are no limits on what he decides to do. He “is able,” Paul tells us, “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (). As Jesus says, “With God all things are possible” (). God’s power is infinite. But there are some things God cannot do. He can neither will nor do anything that denies his own character. For example, he cannot lie (), he cannot be tempted with evil (), and he cannot deny himself (). Therefore, God’s use of his infinite power is qualified by his other attributes.
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
God is omnipotent. He is all powerful. He is able to do all his holy will. There are no limits on what he decides to do. He “is able,” Paul tells us, “to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). As Jesus says, “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). God’s power is infinite.
Ephesians 3:20 ESV
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,
Matthew 19:26 ESV
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Titus 1:2 ESV
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began
James 1:13 ESV
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
But there are some things God cannot do. He can neither will nor do anything that denies his own character. For example, he cannot lie (Titus 1:2), he cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13), and he cannot deny himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Therefore, God’s use of his infinite power is qualified by his other attributes.
Matthew 19:26 ESV
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
2 Timothy 2:13 ESV
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
As we imitate God by utilizing the limited power he has given us to accomplish the things he desires us to do, we show a faint reflection of his infinite power, and thus we bring him glory.
Each of God’s attributes represents one aspect of his character; they each provide us with a perspective on who he is. And they also provide us with some perspective on who he has made us to be.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48, “Your heavenly Father is perfect.” This means God fully possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him. We can imitate his perfection by striving to “be perfect,” as Jesus commanded us to do (Matt. 5:48). Although we won’t attain the perfection we often desire here on earth, through the work of Christ on our behalf we can continually make progress toward that perfection throughout our life.
God Is Blessed
God’s blessedness means that he fully delights in himself and in all that reflects his character. He himself is the focus of all happiness and delight; therefore, his complete fullness of joy is found in himself.
But God also chooses to delight in his creation. When he saw what he made, he said it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), indicating his delight in what he had made. God longs to rejoice over his children, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride” (Isa. 62:5).
As we find delight and happiness in what is pleasing to God—be it the work of others, aspects of our own lives, or things of creation—we demonstrate the ways God has blessed us and therefore honor him and imitate him in his blessedness. We find our greatest blessedness and ultimate happiness in the source of all good things—God himself.
God Is Beautiful
In Psalm 27:4, David tells us that his single great longing in life is to dwell in God’s house for his entire life. One reason he gives for this longing is that he desires to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” God is the sum of all desirable qualities, and he possesses every quality that is truly desirable. Therefore, as David discovered, all our longings and all our desires will only ultimately find their fulfillment in God, the only one who is truly beautiful.
God Is a Unity
Although some of God’s attributes may seem to be emphasized more than others, it is important to realize that God is unified in all his attributes. He is not more of one attribute than another. He is not divided into parts, and he is not one attribute at one point in history and another attribute at another time. He is fully and completely every attribute (even those not mentioned here) at every time.
Each of God’s attributes represents one aspect of his character; they each provide us with a perspective on who he is. And they also provide us with some perspective on who he has made us to be.

Questions for Review and Application

1. What are some attributes that God most clearly shares with us? What are some attributes he doesn’t share very much with us? Name one attribute of God that you would like to imitate more fully in your daily life and tell why.
2. Can you tell what some of the dangers would be in considering one of God’s attributes more important than all the others?
3. Which of God’s attributes seem most amazing to you? What have you learned about God through this attribute?

Who Is Christ?

In the person of Jesus God physically entered into our world. An infinite God came to live in a finite world. In Jesus God and man became one person, a person unlike anyone else the world has ever seen or will ever see. Jesus Christ was, and forever will be, fully God and fully man in one person. And that one person changed the course of history forever.

Jesus—Fully Man

Jesus was fully and completely human. He was conceived in the womb of his mother by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in . Jesus was born of a human mother. His ordinary human birth affirms his humanity.
Matthew 1:18 ESV
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Just as we have a human body, so did Jesus. As a child, he “grew and became strong” (), and as he grew older, he “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (). He became “wearied” from a journey (); after a fast, “he was hungry” (); and while on the cross, he said, “I thirst” (). His body was, in every respect, just like ours.
Luke 2:40 ESV
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Luke 2:52 ESV
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
John 4:6 ESV
Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
Matthew 4:2 ESV
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
John 19:28 ESV
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
Jesus rose from the dead in a physical, human body that was no longer subject to weakness, disease, or death. As he told his disciples, who were astonished at the risen Christ, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (). Jesus continues to reside in this perfect but human body in heaven.
Luke 24:39 ESV
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
Jesus was like us in every respect but one: he was without sin. That is why at the end of his life he could say, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (). That is why Paul refers to Jesus as “him … who knew no sin” (). Peter tells us that Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (). John tells us that “in him there is no sin” (). Clearly, Jesus is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” ().
John 15:10 ESV
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
In addition, Jesus felt the full range of emotions: he “marveled” at the faith of the centurion (Matt. 8:10); he “wept” at the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11:35); and he prayed to God “with loud cries and tears” (Heb. 5:7). Before his crucifixion, he said, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matt. 26:38) and “Now is my soul troubled” (John 12:27).
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
1 Peter 2:22 ESV
He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.
Jesus was like us in every respect but one: he was without sin. That is why at the end of his life he could say, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10). That is why Paul refers to Jesus as “him … who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Peter tells us that Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). John tells us that “in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Clearly, Jesus is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
1 John 3:5 ESV
You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
Hebrews 4:15 ESV
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus had to be fully human to serve as our perfectly obedient representative. His representative obedience as a man is in contrast to Adam’s representative disobedience. Paul says that “as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (). If Jesus wasn’t fully human, his obedience in our place would be meaningless.
Romans 5:19 ESV
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Just as Jesus had to be human to live in our place, he also had to be human to die in our place. This was necessary because of our humanity. As tells us, “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” If Jesus weren’t fully human, his death in our place would be meaningless.
Hebrews 2:17 ESV
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
In addition, Jesus’ humanity (as well as his deity) allows him to serve as the “one mediator between God and men” (). It also means that as a man, he was “in every respect … tempted as we are” and so is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (). “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” ().
1 Timothy 2:5 ESV
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
Hebrews 4:15 ESV
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Hebrews 2:18 ESV
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Jesus—Fully God

As we stated earlier, Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is made clear in Matthew 1:18. Jesus’ virgin birth was a supernatural work of God. Through the work of the Holy Spirit inside Jesus’ mother, Mary, the human and the divine were united in a way they never will be in any other person.
When asked if he had seen Abraham, Jesus responded by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am” (). Those who heard him say this “picked up stones to throw at him” (), which is what any self-respecting religious leader would have done if someone claimed to be God. They understood that Jesus was claiming the same title God claimed for himself in —“I am who I am.”
John 8:57–58 ESV
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
When asked if he had seen Abraham, Jesus responded by saying, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:57–58). Those who heard him say this “picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59), which is what any self-respecting religious leader would have done if someone claimed to be God. They understood that Jesus was claiming the same title God claimed for himself in Exodus 3:14—“I am who I am.”
John 8:59 ESV
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
Exodus 3:14 ESV
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
In , Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” This is very similar to what God the Father said at the beginning of the same book: “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’ ” ().
Revelation 22:13 ESV
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Revelation 1:8 ESV
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Jesus was fully God. “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). If Jesus wasn’t fully God, he could not have borne the full penalty for sin for the whole world. And if he didn’t bear the full penalty of sin for the world as a sinless man, there would be no valid payment for anyone’s sins, and nobody could be saved.
Jesus—Fully God and Fully Man in One Person
Jesus was fully God. Jesus was also fully man. He was fully both at the same time. The eternal Son of God took to himself a truly human nature. His divine and human natures are forever distinct and retain their own properties even though they are eternally and inseparably united together in one person.
This is probably the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—the eternal Son of God, himself fully God, became fully man and in doing so joined himself to a human nature forever. Jesus, a man unlike anyone else the world will ever see again, by eternally bringing together both the infinite and the finite, changed the course of history forever.

Questions for Review and Application

1. Jesus is fully God. What are some ways that this encourages you?
2. Jesus is fully man. What are some ways that this encourages you?
3. Take a moment to pray and talk directly to Jesus, thanking him for coming to earth and becoming fully man for your sake.

What Is the Atonement?

Prior to Jesus’ birth, an angel told his earthly father, Joseph, that he was to name the baby in Mary’s womb Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (). Jesus did save his people from their sins—both through the life he lived and through the death he died. The work Jesus did in living and dying to earn our salvation is sometimes referred to as the atonement.
Matthew 1:21 ESV
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Scripture is clear: Christ came to earn our salvation because of God’s faithful love (or mercy) and justice. God’s love is affirmed in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God’s justice is affirmed when Paul writes that God put forward Jesus “as a propitiation” (Rom. 3:25), that is, a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath so that God looks favorably toward us. Paul says this was done “to show God’s righteousness” and also “so that he might be just” (Rom. 3:25–26). In other words, the sins God “passed over” or didn’t punish before Christ came to earth had to be punished somehow if God was to “be just.” Therefore, someone had to take the punishment for those sins, and that someone was Jesus. In Jesus’ life and death, we find a full expression of God’s justice (sin is punished) and faithful love (God gave his own Son to bear the punishment).

The Necessity of the Atonement

Although it was not necessary that God save any people at all, in his love he chose to save some. Once he made that decision, God’s justice made it necessary for Christ to live the life he lived and die the death he died. See where Jesus asks the rhetorical question regarding His death. Jesus knew there was no other way for God to save us than for him to die in our place. Jesus had to suffer and die for our sins.
Luke 24:26 ESV
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Luke 24:36 ESV
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”

The Nature of the Atonement

The Nature of the Atonement

Jesus Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God so that the positive merits of that obedience could be counted for us. This is what Paul means when he says, “by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (). And this is why Paul does not count on his own righteousness, but instead counts on “that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (). Christ, through the sinless life he lived, became “our righteousness” ().
Romans 5:19 ESV
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.
Philippians 3:9 ESV
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Therefore, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God so that the positive merits of that obedience could be counted for us. This is what Paul means when he says, “by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). And this is why Paul does not count on his own righteousness, but instead counts on “that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9). Christ, through the sinless life he lived, became “our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30).
1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
As Jesus drew closer to his death, his sufferings increased. He told his disciples something of the agony he was experiencing when he said, “My soul is sorrowful, even to death” (). When Jesus was crucified, he suffered one of the most horrible forms of death ever devised by man. While he did not necessarily suffer more pain than any human being has ever suffered, the pain he experienced was immense.
Jesus also lived a life of suffering. He was, in the words of Isaiah, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). He suffered when he was assaulted by Satan’s attacks and temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–11). He “endured from sinners” tremendous “hostility against himself” (Heb. 12:3). He was tremendously grieved at the death of his close friend Lazarus (John 11:35). It was through these and other sufferings that “he learned obedience” (though he never once disobeyed) and “became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8–9).
Matthew 26:38 ESV
Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”
As Jesus drew closer to his death, his sufferings increased. He told his disciples something of the agony he was experiencing when he said, “My soul is sorrowful, even to death” (Matt. 26:38). When Jesus was crucified, he suffered one of the most horrible forms of death ever devised by man. While he did not necessarily suffer more pain than any human being has ever suffered, the pain he experienced was immense.
When crucified, Christ was forced to endure a slow death by suffocation, brought on by the weight of his own body. He was stretched out and fastened by nails to the cross. His arms supported most of the weight of his body. His chest cavity was pulled upward and outward, making it difficult to exhale and then draw in a fresh breath. To breathe, he had to push up with his legs, putting all the weight on the nails through his feet, and pull up on the nails through his hands, sending fiery pain through the nerves of his arms and legs. His back, already whipped raw, scraped against the rough, splinter-filled wooden cross with each breath he took.
But the physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual pain. Jesus never sinned. Jesus hated sin. Yet Jesus voluntarily took upon himself all the sins of those who one day would be saved. “He bore the sins of many” (). That which he hated with his whole being was poured out upon him. As Peter tells us, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (). “For our sake,” God made Christ “to be sin” (). Jesus became “a curse for us” to redeem us “from the curse of the law” ().
Isaiah 53:12 ESV
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
1 Peter 2:24 ESV
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Galatians 3:13 ESV
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
Jesus faced this all alone. “All the disciples left him and fled” (). God, his Father, abandoned him. Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” () because at that time, he was cut off from the sweet fellowship with his heavenly Father that had been the unfailing source of inward strength and the element of greatest joy in a life filled with sorrow. And at the height of his suffering, he was very much alone.
Matthew 26:56 ESV
But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Matthew 27:46 ESV
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Result of the Atonement

The Result of the Atonement
Christ lived a perfect, sinless life and died a horrific, sinner’s death in order to “save his people from their sins” (). He paid the penalty we deserved to pay for our sin. He bore the wrath we deserved to bear. He overcame the separation our sin caused between God and us. He freed us from the bondage caused by sin. Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, God can “deliver us from the domain of darkness” and transfer “us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (). What a great salvation!
Matthew 1:21 ESV
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Colossians 1:13 ESV
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Questions for Review and Application

1. Why was it necessary for Jesus to come and live a perfect life on earth?
2. Why was it necessary that Jesus die? Could he have saved us in some other way?
3. How does your understanding of the atonement humble you? How does it encourage you?

What is Justification?

Paul writes in that those whom God called “he also justified.”
Romans 8:30 ESV
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Justification Is a Legal Declaration by God

When someone responds to God’s call in repentance and faith, God responds to that faith by thinking of that person’s sins as forgiven and by thinking of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to that person. At that very moment God also declares that person to be righteous in his sight. This act of God is called “justification.” Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and thinks of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us and therefore (2) declares us to be “just” or morally righteous in his sight. See ; ; .
Romans 3:26 ESV
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 5:1 ESV
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 2:16 ESV
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Justification by Faith Alone

(When James says a person is “justified by works” in James 2:21, 24, and 25, he is not contradicting Paul, but he is using “justified” in a different sense, not meaning “declared righteous by God,” but “shown to be righteous before other people,” as is clear from the context of James 2:18–26, where he talks about outward evidence that a person has faith.)
A Declaration That We Are Righteous before God
Justification is a legal declaration by God; it is God acting as a judge, declaring that an individual is righteous in his sight. If God has declared you righteous in his sight, you do not have to pay the penalty for your past, present, or future sins. As Paul writes in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Later, in Romans 8:33, Paul makes it clear that no one can bring a charge against or condemn God’s elect. Those whom God has justified have full forgiveness of their sins.
The sins of those justified are considered forgiven because God considers their sins as belonging to Christ, and Christ already paid the penalty for those sins. But not only does God consider those sins as belonging to Christ, he also considers Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us. Christ took the place of guilt that we all deserved so that we could take the place of acceptance we all long for. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Because of Christ’s work on our behalf, God can, through justification, consider our sins as fully forgiven and consider us as fully acceptable and righteous in his sight.
Justification by Faith Alone
Paul explains that people are “justified” by God’s grace, and not any work by us (; ) Justification comes as a result of God’s grace (which means we don’t deserve it), and it comes as God’s response to our faith (which is the opposite of depending on ourselves or our good works).
Romans 3:24 ESV
and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 2:8–9 ESV
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Although justification comes about as God’s act in response to our faith, that does not mean our faith has any merit before God. It is not our faith that earns us favor with God. Scripture is clear: justification is based solely on the merits of Christ’s work; it is never based on any merit in our faith. This really is wonderful news because it means we don’t have to create value or make payment of sins for ourselves. We can look to God, through Christ, to freely give us that which we know we can’t give ourselves.
The doctrine of justification was the central difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics at the time of the Reformation, which began with Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. Luther and all other Protestants who followed him insisted that justification was by “faith alone,” while Roman Catholics responded that justification was by faith plus use of the “means of grace” found in the sacraments of the church (such as baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper as experienced in the mass, and penance). The Protestant doctrine of justification says that we are fully justified by God the instant we believe, for “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (). The Roman Catholic doctrine says that we are not fully justified until our lives are completely cleansed from sin, which will not be until after we die and we have been purified in purgatory (Protestants say there is no purgatory). These differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics about justification have continued to this day.
Romans 8:1 ESV
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In addition to justification, there is another privilege given to those who look to God for their salvation: God makes us members of his family. This act of God is called adoption.
In John 1:12 we are told that to all who received Christ, to those “who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” This is not a privilege available for everyone; Paul says in Ephesians 2:2–3 that those who don’t believe in Christ are “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath.”
Because believers are considered children of God, we experience many of the benefits of adoption now. As children of God, we have the privilege of an intimate relationship with God, whom we can call our Father (Rom. 8:15). We do not have to live a fearful life of slavish obedience; instead, we are free to experience the joy of living as heirs to all the blessings that God desires to lavish upon his children (Rom. 8:15, 17).
We who are adopted by God experience some of the blessings and benefits of being his children now, but we will not experience these blessings fully until Christ returns. On the one hand, “we are God’s children now” (1 John 3:2), but on the other hand, we “groan inwardly,” waiting for the day when the full blessings of our adoption are experienced (Rom. 8:23).
In the interim the lives of God’s children will be marked by much blessing but also by suffering (Rom. 8:17). These sufferings, Paul promises, “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed” at Christ’s return (Rom. 8:18). That will be the day when God himself will wipe away “every tear” from his children’s eyes and when death, mourning, crying, and pain “shall be no more” (Rev. 21:4).

Questions for Review and Application

1. What does it mean to be justified?
2. How are Christians justified? Do you really believe that you have been fully justified once for all time?
3. If you are a Christian, how does it make you feel to be part of God’s family? Why does it make you feel this way? Can you name some of the specific blessings that come from adoption?

What is Sanctification?

Repentance and faith result in justification; but repentance and faith also aid what is sometimes called sanctification. Sanctification is a progressive work of both God and man that makes Christians more and more free from sin and more and more like Christ in their actual lives. God and his children cooperate in this work, both playing distinct roles. And while Christians can expect to progress in their sanctification, they will never achieve perfection until Christ returns.

Sanctification Is a Process

Sanctification starts at the point of regeneration (God’s gift of new spiritual life) and increases throughout life. At regeneration, Paul says, Christians are “set free from sin” () and so must consider themselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus … for sin will have no dominion” over them (, ). This initial break from the power of sin means that Christians are no longer ruled or dominated by sin and no longer love to sin.
Romans 6:18 ESV
and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:11 ESV
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:14 ESV
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Although we will never be completely free from sin in this life, we should still expect to see a regular increase in our sanctification. Paul says that we “are being transformed … from one degree of glory to another” (). He also says, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (). The picture is of a lifelong, continuous process.
But since sanctification is a process, we will never be completely free from sin in this life. As 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Or, as is written in Ecclesiastes 7:20, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” Knowing this, Jesus commanded his disciples to pray (on what appears to be a daily basis), “forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4).
2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Once Christians die and go to be with God, their sanctification is completed because their souls are set free from indwelling sin and made perfect. The author of Hebrews says that when we come into the presence of God to worship we come “to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). This is only appropriate because it is in anticipation of the fact that “nothing unclean will ever enter” into the presence of God (Rev. 21:27). But in another sense, sanctification, since it involves the whole person (body and soul), will not be complete until the Lord returns and he transforms “our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Then our bodies too will be made perfect and will be free from all the influences of sin.
Philippians 3:13–14 ESV
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Although we will never be completely free from sin in this life, we should still expect to see a regular increase in our sanctification. Paul says that we “are being transformed … from one degree of glory to another” (). He also says, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (). The picture is of a lifelong, continuous process.

God’s Role in Sanctification

Yet, in all of this, Christians should never give up their struggle. They should never say that any one sin has defeated them. They should never say they cannot change. Instead, in the midst of the struggle, they should cling to the promises of God, like the one found in Romans 6:14: “Sin will have no dominion over you.”
God’s Role in Sanctification
Sanctification is primarily the work of God. See and . God equips his children through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who works within us to change and sanctify us, giving us greater holiness in life (see ; ; .
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 13:20–21 ESV
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 1:2 ESV
according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
God equips his children through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who works within us to change and sanctify us, giving us greater holiness in life (see ; ; .
2 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
Galatians 5:22–23 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Our Role in Sanctification

We are both passively and actively involved in sanctification. Through repentance and faith we are told to present ourselves “to God as those who have been brought from death to life” (). This is our passive involvement. But we are also told in to “put to death the deeds of the body” (that is, sin), which implies an active role on our part. Although Paul clearly says we are only able to do so by the power “of the Spirit” (), we are nevertheless told that we have an active role ().
Romans 6:13 ESV
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Romans 8:13 ESV
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13 ESV
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Philippians 2:12–13 ESV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Becoming a Christian is a gift from God that requires our involvement; we find the same to be true for sanctification. Progress in sanctification is a gift of grace, but it is a gift we can expect to receive. Just as God honors our initial faith (faith that he gives us), he also honors our continual acts of faith and obedience, seen through Bible reading and meditation (Ps. 1:2; Matt. 4:4; John 17:17), prayer (Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6), worship (Eph. 5:18–20), witnessing (Matt. 28:19–20), acts of mercy and justice (Matt. 23:23; James 1:27), Christian fellowship (Heb. 10:24–25), and self-discipline or self-control (Gal. 5:23; Titus 1:8).
It is important that we continue to grow both in our passive trust in God to sanctify us and in our active striving for holiness and obedience in our lives. If we neglect actively striving to obey God, we become lazy Christians. If we neglect the passive role of trusting God and yielding to him, we become proud and overly confident in ourselves. In either case, our sanctification will be deficient. And if our sanctification is deficient, we won’t experience the joy and peace promised to us (Gal. 5:22, Rom. 14:17).
What If the Sanctification Process Ends?
All true Christians should expect growth in sanctification during their lifetimes. But what if that process seems to end? And if it ends, what does that mean? Does it mean that we, who once were Christians, are now no longer Christians? All these questions have one final question at their root: can we really lose the blessings of our salvation?
The answer to that question is no. All who are truly Christians will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives. But how do we know if we are truly Christians? What if some fall away from any profession of faith and live a life of active rebellion against God? With respect to such cases, we have to say that only those who persevere until the end are truly Christians. This two-part teaching (all true Christians will persevere, and only those who persevere are true Christians) is sometimes referred to as the perseverance of the saints.
The Promise of Jesus
First, there is scriptural evidence that all true Christians will persevere. In John 6:38–40, Jesus says: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Here Jesus says that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. He says that he will raise that person up at the last day, giving that person eternal life with him. Moreover, Jesus says it is God’s will that he “lose nothing” of all God has given him.

Questions for Review and Application

In John 10:28 specifically, Jesus says two things about his followers. First, he says, “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Second, he says, “they will never perish.” These phrases, taken together, drive home the wonderful promise that those to whom Jesus gives eternal life will never lose that life.
These are just two of the promises given by Jesus regarding the perseverance of the saints. From these two passages, it seems clear that Jesus understood that those who received eternal life from him would keep that eternal life for all eternity.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
Further evidence that God keeps Christians safe for eternity is the seal that he places upon us. The seal is the Holy Spirit within us. Paul, in Ephesians 1:13–14, writes that when we first believed in Jesus, we “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The inheritance promised by God includes all the further blessings of eternal life and a great reward in heaven with him. The seal, or guarantee, of that promise is God’s very presence—the Holy Spirit—present in every Christian.
The Promise in Perseverance
While those who are truly Christians will persevere to the end, only those who persevere to the end are truly Christians. In John 8:31, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” That is, one evidence of genuine faith is continuing to believe and obey what Jesus said and commanded.
Paul, in Colossians 1:22–23, writes to the Christians there that Christ reconciled them to God “in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.” Not wanting to give those who weren’t truly Christians a false assurance, Paul put a condition of perseverance on the promise he was giving. By saying “if indeed you continue in the faith,” Paul is not trying to threaten or scare true believers; instead he is saying that those who don’t truly believe will eventually fall away from the faith they claim to have.
The promise in perseverance is that those who continue in faith until the end of their life are true Christians. As we stated earlier, this does not mean these people will live perfect lives. True Christians may have deep struggles with sin at different times in their life. But what it does mean is that those struggles will actually be struggles. True Christians will fight against sin through repentance and faith. The promise in perseverance serves as a warning to those who aren’t truly Christians because it gives them reason to believe that if they do fall or have fallen away from the faith, it is a strong indication that they were never true believers in the first place.
Assurance of Perseverance
The author of Hebrews tells us one way to know that our faith in Christ is genuine is by holding our “original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:14). Yet if the only confidence we have that our faith is genuine comes at the end of life, then we have little hope for today. We would always be wondering if we might fall away at the end of our lives and show that we weren’t really saved. That kind of worry is not consistent with how the New Testament views our assurance.
In fact, true Christians can gain real assurance of salvation from other factors and especially from a present trust in Christ and his ongoing work in their lives. Our present trust in Christ for salvation is one assurance of true conversion. This is the teaching of the most famous verse in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If you believe in him, you have eternal life. If you have confidence in Christ’s work on your behalf, confidence in Christ’s ability to take the penalty for your sins and confidence that Christ should let you into heaven based only on his work and not on yours, and if that confidence is currently present in your life, then that confidence is an assurance of your true faith.
But a present trust in Christ for salvation is not the only thing that provides assurance. Evidence of an ongoing work of God in your life also provides assurance. This ongoing work will include the subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit in your heart, letting you know you are one of God’s children (1 John 4:13). It will also include the work of the Holy Spirit leading you in obedience to God’s will (Rom. 8:14). And it will be shown by a life of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,” and “self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). While these won’t always be perfectly evident, a survey of your life should show evidence of growth in these areas.
In addition, there should be evidence of a continuing, present relationship with Jesus Christ. For, “whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:4–6). A perfect life is not necessary, but a true Christian’s life will continue to show a general pattern of obedience to Christ’s commands and an imitation of his life.
This ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within us will be seen over a long period of time in our lives. That is, true Christians will grow in their sanctification. Peter tells us that one way to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) is to increase our virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2 Peter 1:5–8). Peter says if these qualities increase in our life, we “will never fall” (2 Peter 1:10). If you sense these qualities lacking, do not simply try to replicate them in your life to bolster your assurance, but instead repent of their lack in your life and ask the Lord to give you growth in these areas.
Persevering through the Process
Sanctification is a lifelong process. If you are a believer in Jesus, at times it will seem as if the process is going at a faster rate than you ever thought possible. It’s at these times that you will need to guard against pride and self-righteousness (thinking yourself better than you are and taking credit for your goodness that is really a gift of grace).
At other times, you will wonder if there is any life inside you at all. It’s at these times that you may wonder if you are even truly a Christian. When the doubts begin to fill your thoughts, pray the prayer found in Mark 9:24: “I believe; help my unbelief!”
And in the midst of it all, hold sure to the promise that “by God’s power” you “are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). And take confidence in Jesus’ statement that “this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40).

Questions for Review and Application

1. How is sanctification different from justification?
2. What is our role in sanctification? What is God’s role? What are some specific ways in which you could contribute more to your sanctification in the coming week?
3. List some passages of Scripture that support the doctrine of perseverance. As you reflect on those passages, how do they make you feel? Why do they make you feel that way?

What Is Heaven?

What Is Heaven?

What Is Heaven?
After the final judgment, those who believe in Jesus will enter into the full enjoyment of life that they have longed for. They will hear Jesus say something like “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (), and they will live for eternity in the presence of God. While people often refer to this kingdom as simply “heaven,” the Bible actually paints an even richer picture of a new heaven and new earth.
Matthew 25:34 ESV
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
The Bible promises an entirely renewed creation. It will be “the new heavens and the new earth” that God will make (), a place so rich and good and new that “the former things”—like death, pain, sorrow, and suffering—“shall not be remembered or come to mind” (). It is a place where heaven and earth will join together (), and a voice from God’s throne will announce, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” ().
Isaiah 66:22 ESV
“For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.
Isaiah 65:17 ESV
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.
Revelation 21:2 ESV
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:3 ESV
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.

The Renewed Heaven and Earth

Heaven is the place where God most fully makes known his presence to bless. Although God is everywhere, his presence to bless is most clearly seen in heaven, and his glory is most clearly seen in heaven. Heaven is the one place where everyone worships him.
In addition to making a renewed heaven, God will renew his earthly creation—the earth and those who will dwell in it (; ; ). No longer will there be the “thorns and thistles” () that God brought in judgment on sin, nor will there be other distortions of nature that bring destruction, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. Paradise will be restored.
2 Peter 3:13 ESV
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Revelation 21:1 ESV
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.
Romans 8:21 ESV
that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Genesis 3:18 ESV
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
Those who live on the renewed earth will have new, glorified bodies that will never grow old or become weak or ill. With the curse of sin removed, all creation will be returned to its original state, which was “very good” ().
Genesis 1:31 ESV
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Finally, the renewed heavens and earth will be a place where we can fully enjoy the “treasures in heaven” () that we have been storing up for ourselves during our life on earth. This is wonderful encouragement for us to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (). Therefore, as believers in Jesus, we ought to live “lives of holiness and godliness” while we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (, ).
Matthew 6:20 ESV
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Music is certainly prominent in the descriptions of heaven in Revelation. It appears that music and other artistic activities will be done with all excellence to the glory of God. Humans will probably continue to exercise dominion over the earth and its resources through technological, creative, and inventive means, fully reflecting their creation in the image of God. And although human beings in their new bodies will be like God, they won’t be God. So, for example, we will not have infinite knowledge but will forever continue to increase in the knowledge of God, who alone is infinite (Col. 1:10).
Galatians 6:10 ESV
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
2 Peter 3:11 ESV
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness,
Finally, the renewed heavens and earth will be a place where we can fully enjoy the “treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20) that we have been storing up for ourselves during our life on earth. This is wonderful encouragement for us to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Therefore, as believers in Jesus, we ought to live “lives of holiness and godliness” while we are “waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:11, 13).
2 Peter 3:13 ESV
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The Undeniable Glory of God

In addition to being a place of unimaginable beauty, heaven will be a place where God’s glory is so undeniably evident that all of creation will function in a way that is in full cooperation with his will. Therefore, the world will no longer be “broken”; it will work like it is supposed to. And all the people there will also no longer be “broken,” for they will work and act and relate to one another like they are supposed to. There will no longer be any pain or sorrow, grief or tragedy, for God himself will dwell with his people. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” ().
Revelation 21:4 ESV
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But even more exciting is the fact that God’s fellowship with us will be unhindered. We will forever be able to interact with him and worship him as we were designed to do. The city will have no need of light, “for the glory of God gives it light, and its light is the Lamb” (). This will be the fulfillment of God’s purpose to call us “to his own glory and excellence” (). We will forever dwell in “the presence of his glory with great joy” (; see also ; ; ; ; , ).
Revelation 21:23 ESV
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
2 Peter 1:3 ESV
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
Jude 24 ESV
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
Romans 8:18 ESV
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
1 Corinthians 15:43 ESV
It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
1 Thessalonians 2:12 ESV
we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
1 Peter 5:4 ESV
And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Peter 5:10 ESV
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Questions for Review and Application

1. Can you list some of the things the Bible says about heaven?
2. In what ways does the Bible’s description of heaven surprise you, encourage you, and make you long for heaven even more?
3. Take a moment to pray, thanking God for specific aspects of heaven.
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